8 reasons to replace your eLearning content authoring tool
Whether you’re frustrated by or indifferent to your current eLearning authoring tool, you may find yourself wondering if there’s an alternative out there that can get you excited to create learning content. In this article, we look at eight frustrations and red flags common to inferior authoring tools (or those that are just a poor match for your requirements), and why you shouldn’t settle.
1. Your authoring tool limits how and where your learners can access your courses
At this point, it seems almost redundant to point out that smartphones are kind of a big thing. Not only is their use widespread, the amount of time the average person spends on one continues to increase. It seems like common sense to serve learners with content that looks and works well on any device, but especially the devices they use most commonly.
Yet surprisingly, there are still authoring tools out there that are strictly desktop-only. Worse still, you will encounter plenty of tools that tout mobile compatibility, though their version of ‘mobile’ comes with plenty of asterisks, and is ultimately an afterthought for a desktop-first product.
These tools may simply spit out poorly resized versions of desktop content, or require your designers to create two different versions of the content. A responsive, HTML5-built solution that works on whatever device would be better for everyone.
2. Your learning designers are queuing one after another to make edits
Another hallmark of tools with their feet planted firmly in the desktop era is a linear design pipeline. Only one person can access and edit a file at a time, so contributors must wait to be given the green light to work on the file. If copies of the file are distributed for simultaneous editing, someone has to do the work to pull a definitive version together. The process, often involving long email chains or tracking spreadsheets, is inefficient and open to errors.
A modern eLearning content authoring tool will be available in the cloud, and will compile the edits made by different users in real-time. No more waiting for other designers to finish on a slide they’re responsible for—simply jump in and make your edits whenever you need to. Combine this with user roles (admins, editors, and reviewers), review comments, and task assignment, and you’ll have a truly efficient workflow at last.
3. Only your veteran learning designers can use the tool
Some older eLearning authoring tools have persisted on the market because a skilled learning designer can still get decent results out of them. But when anyone is new to the tool, there’s often a steep learning curve for even the most basic contributions. An easy-to-use, but still powerful tool could democratize your content creation. And would probably make life easier for veteran designers too.
With this in mind, you should get people at a number of different skill levels to try out any tool when trialing it—don’t just leave it to your most experienced designer. Furthermore, look out for features such as a theme library and quick-start option. These will keep everyone focused on the content that matters.
4. Your authoring tool is a little too simple
Of course, you can go a little too far the other way. It’s one thing to make simple tasks easy to achieve, and quite another to cut back on features that your designers need to get impressive results:
- A wide range of great-looking themes should be the starting point—you should be able to customize them.
- Avoid tools with a limited range of screen types/layouts available—the lack of variety can be fatiguing for learners.
- Expect conditional display features so you can build appropriately complex journeys made for the needs of different learners.
5. Simple errors take hours to fix, small additions take hours to implement
You may find yourself some way into your relationship with a tool before you realize just how much the lack of certain features can hurt your team. A good example is a lack of theme centralization. If you cannot edit a central instance of a branded template, and have those changes reflected in every course that uses that template, imagine how much work it would be to correct an error if you have tens or hundreds of courses to correct.
Similarly, if your global presence requires that you provided courses in multiple languages, an authoring tool that will export and import XLIFF files for a quick translation will save enormous amounts of time that would otherwise be spent on course duplication.
6. You’re re-uploading a gigantic SCORM file every time you make a small change
On a similar note, perhaps you’re providing courses in a Learning Management System via the tried-and-tested method of uploading a SCORM file. If your course contains a lot of high-resolution imagery and lengthy video, this file will grow particularly large—potentially hundreds of megabytes—and involve a long upload even on a decent internet connection.
Worse still, SCORM files have to be re-uploaded every time a change is made, regardless of what that change actually is. Notice a spelling error in a completion message? That’s another full upload, and a bunch of wasted time you’re going to have spend correcting it.
You could move to a tool that provides another delivery option, but there are likely valid reasons why you don’t already do this. Thankfully, there is a SCORM-compatible alternative: look for an authoring tool that features an LMS wrapper. What if your SCORM file was tiny (a few kilobytes in size), and you only had to ever upload it once? An LMS wrapper will point your LMS to an up-to-date version of your course. Your learners won’t notice the difference, but your designers will never waste time waiting for an upload again.
7. You’ve been using the tool since Flash was a big deal
Few people in the learning industry will be unaware of Adobe Flash’s decade-long death throes. The antiquated standard will finally breathe its last breath on December 31st 2020. You’re unlikely to still be working regularly with Flash, but you may still use old—and good—courses that were created using it.
With just six months to sunset or rebuild these old Flash courses (or find a doubtlessly labor-intensive workaround), you may find that your legacy authoring tool offers some kind of route to HTML5. But why use a tool where the modern standard is a later-bolt on, rather than a quicker, more reliable, less antiquated tool built for HTML5 from day one?
8. Your vendor provides the tool and nothing else
Even if a tool more or less gives you the features you need, you can still justifiably be left cold by your relationship with your authoring tool (or lack thereof).
Does your eLearning authoring tool vendor promptly and meaningfully reply to your technical support requests? If you have ideas for how the tool could be better, is your feedback listened to, and does it result in changes or support aimed at improving your end-result? Were you properly onboarded and trained in how to use the tool?
If your answer to any of the above is ‘no’, there are better alternatives out there. Better still, work with a vendor who will assign you a customer success manager who will advocate for your feedback, support requests and help you to get the most out of the tool and its new features on an ongoing basis.